After the Challenger Space Shuttle tragedy in 1986, an investigation had been launched. Why did the shuttle erupt after 75 seconds in flight? It was discovered that faulty rubber seals in the joints of the booster engine sections could not withstand the conditions required for space flight.
The New York Times pointed to a deeper problem: a group of managers did not listen to the warnings and criticisms of those down the line who raised concerns about the operational reliability of these parts when under extreme stress.
Receiving any critical feedback can be hard. No one loves correction from their employer (or fellow employee), parent, spouse, child, or friend. Who doesn’t prefer commendation over correction?
When criticized or corrected, the human tendency is to justify oneself. We see our situation more clearly (or so we tell ourselves) than the other person. We can rationalize or excuse our behavior or response. We may not give full credence to the concern and dismiss it.
What would happen if we became enamored with justification by faith alone? How might it impact our relationships? What would happen if this truth mastered our souls and it was not merely applied to our vertical relationship (with God) but also to our horizontal relationships (with others)?
I can begin by hearing criticism, no matter how skewed, and remember that the biggest criticism of the universe has been removed from me (Rom. 8:1). Because I am crucified with Christ and I no longer live but Christ lives in me (Gal. 2:20), I know I am far worse than the worst criticism. God knows every wrong I’ve done and his word says: “Cursed is everyone who does not continue to do everything written in the book of the law (Gal. 3:10). If God no longer counts my sins against me (Ps. 32:2), your criticism can only help me! “Pride only breeds quarrels,” says Proverbs 13:10, “but wisdom is found in those who take advice.” If our standing with God is secure, we can be quick to listen and slow to speak (Jas. 1:19). Defensiveness can go because justification has come!
Or I may take my unmet expectations of others along with the critical thoughts that come to mind and say, “I will no longer think of what I want, but I will, for Christ’s sake, think of the other person better than me (Phil. 2:3) as one who is to be loved and encouraged and helped despite any shortcomings.” Isn’t this what Paul was inferring by forgiving one another just as God in Christ forgave you (Eph. 4:32)?
Justification by faith alone is not a simple doctrine. It is a truth we continue to apply in every area of life. Let it grip you deeply so that it shapes your soul, words, thoughts, and actions. And maybe others will come to see its glorious beauty too.
See you Sunday,
As we gather for Sunday worship, we want you to meet with God and be transformed by the Word. Prepare your heart by reading the passage and listening to the songs for Sunday.